Downeaster

Downeaster

Downeaster

The Downeaster passing through Wells, Maine.
Overview
Type Regional rail
System Amtrak
Status Currently operating five round-trip trains daily
Locale New England
Termini Boston, Massachusetts
Portland, Maine
Stations 10
Daily ridership 1,311 daily (FY10)[1]
Operation
Opened December 15, 2001
Owner Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority
Operator(s) Amtrak
Technical
Line length 116 miles (187 km)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Operating speed 79 MPH (max)
Route map
Legend
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Brunswick
Unknown BSicon "exHST"
Freeport
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0 Portland
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12 mi (19 km) Old Orchard Beach
Unknown BSicon "HSTACC"
16 mi (26 km) Saco-Biddeford
Unknown BSicon "HSTACC"
32 mi (51 km) Wells
Unknown BSicon "eGRENZE+WBRÜCKE"
Maine/New Hampshire border
Unknown BSicon "HSTACC"
48 mi (77 km) Dover
Unknown BSicon "HSTACC"
54 mi (87 km) Durham-UNH
Unknown BSicon "HSTACC"
65 mi (105 km) Exeter
Unrestricted border on track
New Hampshire/Massachusetts border
Unknown BSicon "HSTACC"
82 mi (132 km) Haverhill
Unknown BSicon "HSTACC"
103 mi (166 km) Woburn
Unknown BSicon "INTACCe"
116 mi (187 km) Boston North Station

The Downeaster is a 116-mile (187 km) regional passenger train service managed by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) and operated by Amtrak, connecting North Station in Boston, Massachusetts, to Portland, Maine. With five daily round trips, the route carries 500,000 passengers annually, and was Amtrak's fastest-growing service in fiscal years 2006 and 2008.

Contents

Route

Downeaster route and stations.
A southbound Downeaster train at Ocean Park, Maine, as viewed from the cab of a northbound train.

The Downeaster runs northeast from Boston's North Station through southeastern New Hampshire into southern Maine, terminating at Portland.

The Downeaster uses the MBTA’s Lowell Line from North Station to Wilmington, the Wildcat Branch to Wilmington Junction, and the Haverhill/Reading Line to the Massachusetts-New Hampshire state line. From there to Portland, it uses the Pan Am Railways Freight Main Line. All of these lines were once part of the Boston and Maine Railroad; the part south of Wilmington Junction was once the mainline and a branch of the Boston and Lowell Railroad, and the rest was the mainline of the B&M.

If the Downeaster were to run solely on the Haverhill Line, it would conflict with the local commuter rail service, since the Downeaster makes no stops between Woburn and Haverhill. The use of the Wildcat Branch to cross between the Lowell and Haverhill lines allows the Downeaster to pass a Haverhill train.[citation needed]

Connections

No direct transfer exists between North Station and South Station, which serves Amtrak trains heading south and west out of Boston (see North-South Rail Link). Downeaster passengers who wish to connect with the rest of the Amtrak system can use the Orange Line to Back Bay Station, Orange and Red Lines to South Station, or take a taxi to Back Bay Station or South Station.

From Portland to Bangor, Concord Coach Lines operates Thruway Motorcoach service, scheduled to connect to the Downeaster, and treated as one continuous route for ticketing purposes. Some Thruway buses run from Portland to South Station, making a direct connection with Amtrak's other services.[2]

On-board services

The Downeaster offers two classes of service — Reserved Coach and Business Class — as well as a café car. All seats have electrical outlets. Free Wi-Fi (wireless internet) is available to passengers on all Downeaster trains.[3]

The Downeaster also has a "train host" program, coordinated by Trainriders Northeast. Train hosts, available on some trains, are volunteers who provide passengers with information on destinations, attractions, and transfers.[3][4]

History

A southbound Downeaster crossing the Scarborough Marsh.

The route of the Downeaster is similar to the route historically used by the Pine Tree, which was a joint Boston & Maine / Maine Central train from Boston to Bangor. The primary difference is that a motorcoach (bus) carries passengers for the Portland-Bangor leg of the trip.

The current passenger service from Portland to Boston North Station began running on December 15, 2001.

The Downeaster was the first Amtrak train to offer free Wi-Fi service to passengers, as well as the first Amtrak train to offer E-ticketing.[5]

Ridership

In fiscal year 2006, it was Amtrak's fastest-growing service, with ridership up 22.9% from the previous year.[6] In fiscal year 2007, the service's ridership increased nearly 8%. In fiscal year 2008, with the addition of a fifth round trip, ridership increased by 28% — 12% more than projected. Fiscal year 2008 ticket revenue was $6,076,517, an increase of 33% over fiscal year 2007 and 14% more than projected.[7] In fiscal year 2010, a total of 478,463 passengers traveled on the train, an increase of 3.9% from fiscal year 2009's total of 460,474, and ticket revenue increased 3.3% to $6,711,893 from fiscal year 2009's total of $6,496,040.[1] In fiscal year 2011, ridership topped 500,000 for the first time.[8]

North Station in Boston serves the most passengers on the Downeaster route. The Portland Transportation Center is Maine's busiest station, and Exeter has the most boardings and detrainings in New Hampshire.

Finances

A southbound Downeaster at Rigby Yard in South Portland, Maine.

The Downeaster is managed by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority and operated by Amtrak.[9] As of December 2007, operating the Downeaster costs $13.5 million per year, of which $6 million is covered by fares paid by passengers. The federal government provides $6 million per year through 2008, and Maine $1.5 million per year; after that, Maine will have to take over paying the entire shortfall if service is to continue. Massachusetts and New Hampshire do not contribute directly to the Downeaster's operational budget even though the train stops in those states.[10]

Expansion and development

Video of the Downeaster passing through Scarborough, Maine.

An expansion project currently underway will add passenger train service along Maine's Atlantic coastline from Portland to Brunswick. A study by the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology suggests that the extension, combined with commercial developments along the "Downeaster Corridor," could generate several billion dollars in construction investments plus $55 million annually in tax revenue for the state of Maine.[11]

Ground was broken for the Brunswick station on October 18, 2008. This project is a retail development centered around a new train station with future service south on the Downeaster, and north to Rockland on Maine Eastern Railroad. It will include shops, condominiums, and office space.

On January 28, 2010, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority received approval for a $35 million grant from the federal government to fund track and signal upgrades for the Portland-Brunswick line.[12] Pan Am Railways began work on the line in summer 2010. NNEPRA hopes to have passenger rail service to Brunswick by 2012.[13][14]

See also

  • Trainriders Northeast
  • Railroad history of Portland, Maine

References

  1. ^ a b "AMTRAK SETS NEW RIDERSHIP RECORD, THANKS PASSENGERS FOR TAKING THE TRAIN (link to PDF download)". Amtrak. 11 October 2010. http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer/Page/1237608337144/1237608345018?passedMonth=October&passedYear=2010. Retrieved 26 October 2010. 
  2. ^ http://tickets.amtrak.com, accessed 10 Oct 2007.
  3. ^ a b "On Board Services - Amtrak Downeaster". Amtrak Downeaster. http://www.amtrakdowneaster.com/on-board/coach-class. Retrieved 07 February 2011. 
  4. ^ "Trainriders NE - Host Program." The Official Site of Trainriders NE. 05 May 2009 <http://www.trainridersne.org/WebPages/TRNE_HostProgram/host>.
  5. ^ Billings, Randy (11 November 2011). "Amtrak Downeaster rolls out electronic tickets, improved Wi-Fi". Sun Journal. http://www.sunjournal.com/news/business/2011/11/11/amtrak-downeaster-rolls-out-electronic-tickets-improved-wi-fi/1113947. Retrieved 12 November 2011. 
  6. ^ "Amtrak Fact Sheet, FY2006, State of Maine". 2006-12-01. http://www.amtrak.com/pdf/factsheets/MAINE06.pdf. Retrieved 2008-02-11 
  7. ^ "FY08 Summary Report" (Press release). Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. June 2008. http://amtrakdowneaster.com/documents/PerformanceReportJune2008.pdf. Retrieved 2009-01-08. 
  8. ^ Associated Press (11 July 2011). "Downeaster ridership tops 500,000 for 1st time". Portland Press Herald. http://www.pressherald.com/news/Downeaster-tops-500000-for-1st-time-.html. Retrieved 13 July 2011. 
  9. ^ http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/am2Route/Vertical_Route_Page&c=am2Route&cid=1081256321869&ssid=134
  10. ^ Woodard, Colin (December 24, 2007). "Amtrak Downeaster: Successful train faces uncertain future". Christian Science Monitor. http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/1224/p02s01-usgn.html. Retrieved 2008-04-25. 
  11. ^ Chappell, George (April 10, 2008). "Report: Downeaster train will generate billions". Bangor Daily News: p. A5. 
  12. ^ [White House Published Document: Recovery Act High Speed Rail Awards | http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/hsr_awards_summary_public.pdf]
  13. ^ Bell, Tom (28 January 2010). "$35 million grant will allow Amtrak to expand train service to Brunswick". Portland Press Herald. http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/story.php?id=311808&ac=PHnws. Retrieved 28 January 2010. [dead link]
  14. ^ Sharp, David (December 13, 2009). "Amtrak's Downeaster hopes to tap stimulus money". Associated Press. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5geGTQ7kRVvAN5K7_yseSmcsbqSYQD9CIIC600. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 

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